Amazing Natural Splendor of Panacocha
Panacocha Bosques Protectores (Protected Forest) lies in the narrow gap between Ecuador’s two largest protected areas in the Amazon. Consisting of 56,000 hectares of lush rainforest, Panacocha provides an essential biological corridor between the Yasuni National Park and the Cuyabeno Wildlife Reserve, thereby creating a contiguous park in the headwaters of the Amazon which stretches over more than 1.6 million hectares.
Unfortunately, despite Panacocha being given protected status, colonization, poaching, logging and mineral extraction continue in Panacoha, as well as in its two neighboring reserves. All three areas are rich in oil reserves and Cuyabeno has been negatively impacted by oil drilling in the past, while Yasuni has a number of oil wells that are active. The petroleum companies are sure to turn their attention to Panacocha at some time in the future, and in an effort to preserve the area, conservationists have established the Panacocha Protection Project, incorporating a management plan and eco-tourism enterprise that involves working along with the local community.
The primary forest, blackwater lagoon and riverine system of Panacocha includes flooded and terra firma forest that supports a wide variety of flora and fauna. The name Panacocha means “Lake of the Piranhas” in the local Quechua language, and certainly piranhas can be found in the waters of this biological corridor. But the waters of Panacocha are also home to many other species of fish, including enormous catfish, as well as Pink and Grey Amazonian River Dolphins and manatees (also referred to as sea cows), both of which are considered to be critically endangered.
The tropical butterflies to be found in Panacocha are a lepidopterist’s ultimate dream, but of course you don’t have to be an expert to appreciate the beauty of these delicate creatures. The sight of hundred of butterflies in an endless variety of colors and patterns is absolutely awe-inspiring. Other inhabitants of Panacocha include jaguars, ocelots, nine species of monkeys and over 500 species of birds. A wide variety of fauna, much of which is rare or endangered, is found along this amazing biological corridor.
Discussions are underway with the view to establish Trans-boundary Protected Areas that would incorporate protected areas in Peru and Colombia, which are an extension of Panacocha, Yasuni and Cuyabeno. Eco-tourism is becoming more popular as people want to escape the cities during their vacation time. With the cooperation of the locals, eco-tourism is bringing much needed revenue into the area, while every care is taken to ensure that this beautiful part of Ecuador remains untainted.